Aristo Torres, a skilled worker with 40 years of experience, expertly blends tobacco leaves at a cigar factory in northern Nicaragua, with most of the products destined for the United States. As a “bonchero,” his role is to create the filler, or mix of cigar leaves. These Nicaraguan cigars are highly valued due to their volcanic soil and unique manufacturing process, according to participants at the 11th Puro Sabor Festival in Estelí, about 150 km north of Managua.
Andrés Díaz Cote, a cigar enthusiast for 25 years, explains that Nicaraguan cigars have a strong and stable flavor profile, and they burn perfectly. The country’s tobacco industry took off in the 1960s, thanks to Cuban immigrants who discovered that Estelí’s volcanic soil was ideal for tobacco cultivation. Now, industry experts regard Nicaraguan cigars among the best in the world.
Nicaraguan cigars, valued in over 90 countries, generate around $400 million in global sales, 85% of which come from the U.S. “I think the best cigars in the world right now come from Nicaragua,” states U.S. businessman Rocky Patel, who also produces cigars in Honduras and the Dominican Republic.
Despite initial fears of a downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Nicaraguan tobacco growers have seen a boost in sales as more people set up work and smoking spaces at home. According to the Nicaraguan Chamber of Tobacco Growers’ president, Manuel Rubio, the industry projects an annual growth of 10-15% in all areas. Over 65,000 people now work on plantations, in drying facilities, treatment centers, and cigar factories.
In the meantime, Torres continues to blend tobacco leaves, a craft he passionately describes as something special: “Every day we have to keep learning a little more to keep experimenting to please the customer. If we don’t please the customer, we won’t be doing anything.”
Key Takeaways From Article
1. Visit Estelí, Nicaragua: Estelí, located about 150 km north of Managua, is the hub of the Nicaraguan tobacco industry. This city is a must-visit for cigar enthusiasts, as it is home to numerous tobacco companies, cigar factories, and the annual Puro Sabor Festival.
2. Learn about the Manufacturing Process: Take the opportunity to learn about the meticulous manufacturing process of Nicaraguan cigars. Visit cigar factories and observe the skilled workers, like Aristo Torres, who have decades of experience in handcrafting cigars.
3. Appreciate the Volcanic Soil: One of the reasons why Nicaraguan cigars are highly regarded is because the tobacco is grown in volcanic soils. Explore the agricultural areas and witness the unique conditions that contribute to the exceptional flavor and quality of Nicaraguan tobacco.
4. Smoke Nicaraguan Cigars: If you’re a cigar aficionado, make sure to try Nicaraguan cigars during your travels. These cigars are known for their stability of strong flavor, rich flavors, good body, sweetness, and perfect burn. With a wide variety of brands and flavors available, there’s something for every palate.
5. Support Local Businesses: Nicaragua’s tobacco industry is a vital part of its economy, employing thousands of people. When visiting, make an effort to support local tobacco growers, merchants, and cigar manufacturers by purchasing their products and visiting their establishments.
6. Attend Cigar Festivals and Events: Keep an eye out for cigar festivals and events in Nicaragua, such as the Puro Sabor Festival. These events provide a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in the world of Nicaraguan cigars, learn from industry experts, and connect with fellow enthusiasts.